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Rhubarb

23 November 2010

 


Rhubarb
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

 

Rhubarb Rheum rhabarbarum [ Plantae: Eudicots: Core Eudicots: Polygonaceae: Rheum: R. rhabarbarum ]
Common Names:
Localities:
Grown throughout the world in heated greenhouses, it is a common vegetable all over.

Species:
Description:
Rhubarbs are a popular herbaceous perennial plant that grows up from short thick rhizomes sprouting with large triangular-shaped leaves with long fleshy petioles blossoming into a large compound of leafy greenish-white to rose-red inflorescence small grouped flowers. The crimson rhubarb stalks vary in color from crimson red, speckled light pink, or light green.

Cultivation:
It is commonly grown in hothouses which is ready for harvest mid-late spring though grown year-round in warm climates. It can be forced or encouraged by raising of the local temperature as it is a seasonal plant. It can be planted in containers.

Common Uses:
A rich brown dye close in color to walnut husks is created from its root.

Culinary Uses:
The leaves are toxic. Fresh raw stalks are crisp with a strong tart taste, commonly cooked as an alternative to celery but used in pies and other foods for its tart flavor. It is considered a vegetable. It is often dehydrated and infused with fruit juice such as strawberries to mimic strawberry rhubarb pie. It is used in pies, jams, jellies,fruit wines, sauces, and preserves. It was a quick snack for children in the UK who dipped it in sugar.

Medicinal Uses:
The leaves are toxic and poisonous as it has oxalic acid, nephrotoxic, and corrosive acid in its leaves. The roots are used as a strong laxative for over 5,000 years. It has an astringent effect on the mucous membranes of the mouth and nose, is rich in anthraquinones, emodin, rhein, and are cathartic. It is commonly used as a dieting aid.

Magical Uses:
Folklore and History: Rhubarb is associaed with the legend of Shen Nung, the Yan Emperor, in 2700 BCE as a strong medicinal herb and was harvested by Marco Polo in his travels. It was believed to be derived from Rha, the ancient name of the Volga, where the plant was found growing on its banks. Comes from the Greek root “rheo” meaning “to flow” in relation o its purgative properties. During the Ming Dynasty, a Ming general atempted suicide by eathing rhubarb medicines.

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